Hard-hit cruise lines may not see much of stimulus bailout funds

The $2 trillion stimulus package was passed by lawmakers Friday.

March 27, 2020, 4:32 PM

While the travel sector -- and especially cruise lines -- have been one of the hardest-hit industries by the novel coronavirus outbreak, cruise operators will see little relief from the $2 trillion economic stimulus package lawmakers passed on Friday.

Since the COVID-19 outbreak, cruises have been in international headlines after a series of high-profile onboard outbreaks of the virus have sickened hundreds.

As cruise ship quarantine sagas dominate headlines, a handful of major carriers -- including Princess, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian -- have even taken the step of canceling all cruises in the near future as the pandemic wages on.

Despite catering to American cruise-goers, however, many of the major players in the cruise industry are incorporated in foreign countries such as Bermuda and Panama. When their ships are flagged in these foreign countries, this allows operators to avoid certain U.S. taxes and labor laws, Jim Walker, a maritime lawyer and cruise industry safety advocate, told ABC News earlier this month.

As a result, however, they are largely ineligible for funds from the massive economic stimulus bill meant to ameliorate the impacts of the outbreak on the economy that was passed by U.S. lawmakers Friday.

PHOTO: Passengers are disembarked from the Grand Princess cruise ship at the Port of Oakland in California on March 9, 2020.
Passengers are disembarked from the Grand Princess cruise ship at the Port of Oakland in California on March 9, 2020.
Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images, FILE

Bari Golin-Blaugrund, the senior director of strategic communications for the Cruise Lines International Association, a trade group, said that travel agent members who work in the cruise line industry will receive some support from the bill.

"Our focus as it relates to this bill was on securing support for the more than 30,000 CLIA travel agent members, most of which operate small and medium-sized businesses, who are very much in need of relief as a result of the slowdown in cruise operations," Golin-Blaugard told ABC News in a statement. "We are grateful that they will receive support as a result of this bill."

Hundreds of thousands of other workers in the industry, however, will not.

"For the more than 421,000 people in the United States whose jobs are supported by the cruise industry, we will continue to work with policymakers to help our community recover from the impact of this pandemic," he added.

PHOTO: People look out from aboard the Grand Princess cruise ship, operated by Princess Cruises, as it maintains a holding pattern about 25 miles off the coast of San Francisco, March 8, 2020.
People look out from aboard the Grand Princess cruise ship, operated by Princess Cruises, as it maintains a holding pattern about 25 miles off the coast of San Francisco, March 8, 2020.
Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images, FILE

The hundreds of thousands of cruise industry jobs supported in the U.S. vary from tour operators to port workers and beyond, according to Golin-Blaugrund.

"As we look to the future, we know that their long-term recovery is intricately linked to the ability of cruise ships to resume normal operations as soon as it is safe to do so," he added. "That is where we will be focusing our efforts in the coming weeks and months."

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